LIV Golf players can’t ‘free-ride’ off PGA Tour, Jay Monahan says

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Declaring the PGA Tour was not going to allow LIV Golf Invitational Series participants to “free-ride” off the structure and cachet of his organization, Commissioner Jay Monahan defended the decision to suspend players who defected from his circuit to play in the inaugural event of the Saudi-backed venture.

Monahan was making an appearance Sunday on CBS’s telecast of the final round of the Canadian Open, one day after the conclusion of LIV Golf’s debut, staged near London. The 52-year-old commissioner emphasized the benefits, as he saw them, for PGA Tour players to stay put — and mentioned that those who have already signed with the deep-pocketed rival might regret that decision.

“It’s been an unfortunate week that was created by some unfortunate decisions, those decisions being players choosing to violate our tournament regulations,” Monahan told CBS’s Jim Nantz. “… It’s my job to protect, defend and celebrate our loyal PGA Tour members, our partners and our fans, and that’s exactly what I did. I don’t think it was a surprise to anybody, given how clear I had been about how we were going to handle this situation.”

Asked by Nantz why players couldn’t compete on both circuits — a stance questioned by LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman — Monahan began his reply with a question of his own: “Why do they need us so badly?”

“Because those players have chosen to sign multiyear, lucrative contracts to play in a series of exhibition matches against the same players over and over again,” Monahan continued. “You look at that, versus what we see here today, and that’s why they need us so badly.

“You’ve got true, pure competition — the best players in the world here at the RBC Canadian Open, with millions of fans watching. And in this game, it’s true and pure competition that creates the profile and the presence of the world’s greatest players. That’s why they need us. That’s what we do. But we’re not going to allow players to free-ride off our loyal members, the best players in the world.”

When both events teed off Thursday, Monahan released a letter explaining that the suspensions, which LIV Golf decried as “vindictive,” were a matter of following the PGA Tour’s regulations. The tour had denied releases last month for players who applied for a waiver to compete at the LIV Golf event in England. A number of players who defected, including American star Dustin Johnson, resigned their memberships in the PGA Tour rather than face further sanctions.

As to whether players such as Johnson and fellow LIV Golf participant Phil Mickelson could one day be allowed back onto the PGA Tour, the commissioner demurred Sunday. His tour could face legal challenges to its suspensions.

“We’ll see how things continue to develop,” he told Nantz, “as we go down the road here.”

The PGA Tour had allowed a number of its members to play in February’s Saudi International. Asked to explain why that was acceptable but participation with LIV Golf is not, Monahan pointed to the fact that the February competition was “a single event recognized by a sanctioned tour,” in that…

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